Saving the memory of tragic goalie

THE son of Sunderland footballing hero Jimmy Thorpe was the first to be presented with a book about his dad's life and tragic death.

Ronnie Thorpe, 71, has been helping local historian John Kelters to write a book about Jimmy, who suffered fatal injuries helping the Black Cats to their last league championship win.

John Kelters has spent a year collating information about the outstanding goalkeeper who made 139 appearances for Sunderland.

John had promised that Ronnie, of Langley Road, Tunstall, would be the first to receive a copy of the book, entitled 1 Jimmy Thorpe – after the number on his Sunderland shirt.

Ronnie was just two when his dad died at the age of 22 after being injured in a bruising football match against Chelsea at Roker Park on February 1, 1936.

He suffered horrific injuries after being kicked repeatedly in the head and body when opposing players surrounded him after he had smothered the ball during a Chelsea attack.

The brave goalie continued playing till the end of the game, but died in a diabetic coma four days later in Monkwearmouth Infirmary.

The incident sparked an FA and police investigation and a change in the game’s rules.

Ronnie helped John, of Heron Close, Ayton, Washington, write the book in his father’s memory by releasing previously unpublished photographs of the goalkeeper.

Ronnie said: “The book is wonderful. Finally my dad’s achievements have been recognised. It’s a great feeling.”

John, 55, chairman of the Jarrow and Hebburn History Society, said: “He’s a really nice fellow, a gentleman. I got a lot of information from him. ”

Ronnie has called upon Sunderland AFC to install a lasting memorial of his father at the Stadium of Light.

A moving poem written by a fan at the time hangs on a wall at the Stadium of Light, but Ronnie believes that the club itself should do something in his memory.

He also revealed that the family was planning to put a headstone on his grave in Jarrow Cemetery.

The grave has been unmarked since Jimmy died and Ronnie had always assumed it had a headstone.

When the family has marked the grave it will, Ronnie said, also be a memorial to his grandmother, Jimmy’s mother, who died shortly after her son and is buried in the same plot.

“I was too young to remember my dad and to be truthful he wasn’t mentioned when my mam remarried, out of respect for her new husband. But I want to stress he was never forgotten.”

John said he was going to libraries and the Stadium of Light to see if they were interested in copies of the book, which sells at 7.50.